The Northern Patriots volleyball team was aiming to remain undefeated on Thursday night hosting the Leonardtown Raiders in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division battle.
“I am really proud of the effort that we put out,” Northern head coach Bobby Gibbons said. “When you play a great team, you have to rise up and play great. I thought we did that and stayed even-keel all night. We made some mistakes and Leonardtown went on a few good runs on us, but we kept our heads and emotions in check and turned things around.”
After a tightly contested second set, the Patriots (9-0, 3-0 SMAC Chesapeake) were able to hang on and earn a sweep in three sets over the Raiders (5-2, 2-1) by a final score of 25-16, 26-24, 25-19.
“Overall we had a really good win,” junior Karoline Kampsen said. “We worked efficiently as a team and came into the game well prepared for anything.”
The Patriots raced out to an early 10-8 advantage in the opening set on an ace from junior Alissa Jester.
An ace from Leonardtown sophomore Samantha Newton pulled the visitors to within six points trailing 20-14, but Northern closed out the first set 25-16.
“Leonardtown is the best defensive team that we have seen all year,” Gibbons said. “They get a lot of balls up, and they don’t quit. They get after everything that they see, and they are a really solid team. They are very young and there are great things ahead of them in the future.”
Northern wasted no time grabbing an early lead in the second set on a kill from junior Allie Droneberger to go up 2-0. Leonardtown continued to battle back and tied the score at 8 before an ace from junior Gabby Elbrecht granted the Patriots a 10-8 edge.
In the latter portion of the set, Northern appeared poised to capture the frame leading 20-16, but a timeout by Leonardtown head coach Steve Correll sparked a comeback for the visitors.
The Raiders saved a pair of set points to tie the score at 24 before a kill from Northern senior Allie Timbario wrapped up the set for the hosts at 26-24.
“We have to get better, but I am proud of every one of my girls,” Correll said.
In the third set, the Raiders raced out to an early 3-0 lead before Gibbons called a timeout.
“I told our girls [during the timeout] to relax and take a breath,” Gibbons said. “Losing a few points in a row is not the end of the world, but you have to make up your mind mentally that it is going to stop right now.”
Northern trailed 5-1 in the third set before fighting back to tie the count at 5.
“For us to come back and to keep putting points on the board and grinding away was fantastic of our team,” Gibbons said.
Leonardtown held a 12-11 edge before a kill from Droneberger and an ace from junior Mackenzie DeToto pushed Northern back in front 13-12.
After the score was tied at 16, the Patriots closed out the match by winning nine of the final 12 points.
“I thought our middle blocker Chantele McCray played the best match she’s played all year,” Gibbons said. “She was great at the net, great at blocking and she brought a lot of energy up there. That is what we needed on a night like tonight was a lot of energy and everybody stepped up and played well tonight. I am always happy to get a win against a really talented team like Leonardtown.”
With the Patriots remaining unbeaten nearly halfway through the season, Kampsen noted how important practices are for the team to continue to work hard.
“Being undefeated is a great feeling and it means more is expected from us by everyone,” Kampsen said. “Our coaches expect intensity and hard work at each practice by us giving it our all, because how you practice is how you will play in a game.”
Leonardtown is set to host Chopticon at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, while Northern is off until a scheduled home contest versus Huntingtown at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are undefeated right now, but we are only halfway through the season and a lot can change,” Gibbons said. “It is always good to start this way, but it is about how we finish and we are just going to keep grinding every single day and hope that we can continue playing the way we have been.”